March 22, 2019 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC


Keynote: Susan Abulhawa, Israel Beyond Apartheid.

Susan Abulhawa will present the keynote speech at the sixth Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on March 22. Her address is entitled “Israel Beyond Apartheid,” and will examine the nature of Israel’s presence in the world, beginning with its claim to be the "only democracy in the Middle East" vs its reality as an apartheid nation. What are the roles Israel has assumed beyond colonizing Palestine in terms of Israel's relationships to other nations, to the natural world, and to history?

As a highly regarded Palestinian author (link to her bio) who has written internationally acclaimed bestsellers, Abulhawa is often invited to international poetry or literary festivals. Audiences in every country in the world can listen to her voice—except in her own homeland. In November 2018, Israeli authorities barred her entry at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport and prevented her from participating in panel discussions at a literature festival in Ramallah and Jerusalem. She was detained for 32 hours, many of them spent in an Israeli jail cell, as she appealed the decision. An Israeli court upheld her deportation.

From Abdulhawa’s statement on her deportation:

“It pains me that we can meet anywhere in the world except in Palestine, the place to which we belong, from whence our stories emerge and where all our turns eventually lead. We cannot meet on soil that has been fertilized for millennia by the bodies of our ancestors and watered by the tears and blood of Palestine’s sons and daughters who daily fight for her…I want to leave you with one more thought I had in that jail cell, and it is this: Israel is spiritually, emotionally and culturally small despite the large guns they point at us — or perhaps precisely because of them. It is to their own detriment that they cannot accept our presence in our homeland, because our humanity remains intact and our art is beautiful and life affirming, and we aren’t going anywhere but home.”  

Ali Abunimah - "What does a censored undercover news investigation reveal about the Israel lobby in America?"

The Electronic Intifada has been at the forefront in fighting censorship by obtaining, releasing and contextualizing “The Lobby,” the suppressed Al Jazeera documentary about the Israel lobby in the U.S. What does the documentary and EI’s additional research reveal about joint Israeli government-U.S. lobby covert actions in the United States? How important has secret funding by a convicted Israeli-American felon Adam Milstein to “the Canary Mission” been in that anonymous effort to blacklist pro-Palestinian activists? What is the motivation of the “Sugarcoating” fronts created and maintained by The Israel Project on Facebook, and how are they similar or different to Russian and other stealth attempts to influence public opinion through social media? What do the Astroturf “grassroots” protests of SJP events by the Emergency Committee for Israel and Hoover Institution operatives reveal about the Israel lobby’s strength and weaknesses?

Saqib Ali - "Why I'm suing Maryland to protect my constitutional right to boycott Israel."

 Former Maryland State Delegate Saqib Ali, founding member of Freedom2Boycott, in January filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's executive order banning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel. The executive order denies government contracts to businesses that refuse to sign pledges promising not to boycott Israel. Similar measures have been implemented in 25 other states. Ali filed his lawsuit just before the Senate passed the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.” The legislation contains a section upholding the legality of state anti-BDS measures. Despite years of intense Israel lobby efforts, anti-boycott legislation has never passed the House of Representatives.  

Kathy Drinkard - "How the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR) is preventing Israel affinity organizations from politicizing K-12 textbooks."

 Why is VCHR leading a campaign in Virginia to prevent Israel affinity organizations from rewriting K-12 textbooks? What kinds of changes have these groups submitted to the Department of Education and textbook publishers, and were they public knowledge? What accuracy and politicization issues do the changes present? What are the changes supposed to accomplish? What organizations backed the proposed changes? Is this a problem only in Virginia or nationally? What is VCHR doing to ensure a “balanced presentation of facts that represent reality”?

Walter Hixson - Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict

Hixson recounts a nearly unbroken string of Israeli interventions—working with and at times directing its U.S. lobby—to undermine broader U.S. national interests in favor of policies preferred by Israel. Hixson’s distillation of the original papers of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) founder Isaiah Kenen and other unique and untapped sources answers questions avoided by mainstream historians.

Hixson reveals how most of the important Israel/lobby levers of influence are deployed, from placing loyal operatives high inside the U.S. policy making apparatus, providing instant access to and transmission of closely-held White House information, to near instant generation of positive and negative mainstream U.S. news favoring Israel's position.

Does the historical record confirm that Israel dictated most of the relevant U.S. choices on critical Israel-Palestine and regional policies? Comparing Cold War Russia and pre-1967 Israeli history, Hixson also explores which country exercised a more pervasive influence on U.S. policy making, and what—if anything—has changed since that time. Hixson will also discuss whether American settler colonialism has made the U.S. more amenable to Israel, how taxpayers have been forced to pay ever more for “Israel's armor,” and whether the U.S. military—mostly unbeknownst to them—is still all but unconditionally guaranteed to back Israel no matter what audacious actions Israel decides to take.

Martin McMahon - “The legal battle for justice against Israeli settlers and their American backers.”

On February 19, 2019 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that a group of mostly Palestinian plaintiffs could continue to pursue legal action against Israeli settlers alleged to have committed genocide. The precedent-setting 2016 lawsuit doggedly pursued casino magnate and Trump MEGAdonor Sheldon Adelson, Christians United for Israel's Pastor John Hagee, Democratic Party donor Haim Saban, U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams, a raft of non-profit charities funding settlements, Friends of the IDF, the Jewish National Fund, Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, Re/MAX, Veolia, Hewlett Packard, Motorola and others. Plaintiffs’ Attorney Martin F. McMahon explains why the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to quash the case, why defendants dodged process service, and where this legal action is headed in its next phase."

James Metz - "Why VCHR is taking on the Virginia Israel Advisory Board."

VCHR is leading a campaign in Virginia to defund a government entity called the Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB). What is VIAB? When was it formed? Who are VIAB’s executives? Why does VIAB seek economic opportunities for Israel outside the commonwealth’s economic development agency? How transparent is VIAB, and how easy is it to obtain information about its activities? Why are VIAB’s leadership and supporting Israel advocacy organizations using it as a platform against BDS? What troubling activities has VCHR uncovered about VIAB? What is VCHR doing to dissolve VIAB?

James North - "How The New York Times rigs news on Israel Palestine."

The New York Times often sets the agenda for American news media. Yet America’s “newspaper of record” is consistently biased when covering Israel Palestine. How does the NYT use framing, omission and placement to ignore Palestinian and dissident American voices? Why are so many Israelis and their U.S. backers cited, and so few Palestinians? How open to feedback is the newspaper? Why does The New York Times do this? Are there any cracks in the edifice of such reporting?

Paul Noursi - "What is the VCHR?"

The Virginia Coalition for Human Rights is a broad coalition representing 17 organizations and over 8,000 Virginians. How and why have they coalesced around the belief that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a human rights issue that requires an open and free debate? What VCHR programs advance those beliefs? What Israel lobby efforts have been made to forestall this debate by placing limitations on free speech, commerce and academic freedom in the commonwealth?

Brad Parker - "What lessons can activists take away from the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act?"

For decades, activists and grassroots organizers have considered congressional advocacy for Palestinian rights futile. How has the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign challenged that orthodoxy? What are the engagement points of the campaign and why were they chosen? What critical mass of national mobilization was necessary to finally engage members of Congress on the issue? What is “evidence-based advocacy” and how does it work? What applicable lessons can activists take away from the introduction of H.R. 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, as they seek to advance other worthy initiatives through Congress?

Grant Smith "U.S. foreign aid and the Israeli nuclear weapons program."

In 1969, the Department of Defense, intelligence community and Department of State recommended President Richard Nixon uphold the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and pressure the Israelis to stop their nuclear weapons program by withholding U.S. arms. U.S. deliberations considered Israel’s illegal diversion of U.S. weapons grade uranium.

However, the Nixon administration adopted Israel’s policy of “ambiguity” toward Israel’s nukes. Why did this happen? How has “ambiguity” been maintained for a half century? What law governs U.S. foreign aid to non-NPT signatory nuclear countries, and how is this law continually subverted? How has the pattern of action leading to “ambiguity” been repeated in other key U.S. policy areas of interest to Israel and its lobby?